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Mitigating the Risk of Bad Employee Behavior on Social Media

Submitted by on December 27, 2009 – 9:15 pm3 Comments

What do you do with an employee who posts less than professional opinions or images on Facebook about their employer, one of their clients or colleagues? What if it’s done on their private time?

Well the ground is littered with bad employee behavior on Social Networks – from Starbucks employees posting pictures of customers on Flickr alongside derogatory captions  to the recent Dominos employees putting videos on YouTube showing some pretty horrendous food preparation.  How a company responds has a lot to do with how they have set expectations.  We live in transitional times.  Never before have the boundaries between public and private, work and home life been so blurred as they are now.  On one side of this question; Some companies are essentially stating that all employee behavior on social networks – regardless of whether conducted at-work or at-home adhere to the code-of-conduct stated by the workplace – period.  Others are establishing looser guidelines that gently try to steer employees away from less-than-professional behavior.   In any case I think it is well within the purview of a company to establish a social media guideline that places a hard border around work and doesn’t allow the use of social technologies to publish denigrating, disrespectful or proprietary information to be released on social networks – regardless of whether this is done at work or at home.

The big point in either case is to have a clear set of guidelines published before any incident takes place. While we call the Social Web a “conversational medium” – and it is – this type of conversation is often searchable and findable by the 1.7 billion inhabitants.  Oh yeah, and it never goes away.  So companies have a very material stake in getting out in front of this.   However, if you are going to do this I will beat my drum again.   Establish clear guidelines in advance.  Don’t get surprised by this.  If, to your question, an employee posts something unfortunate, without clearly established guidelines you may not have any real means to counter it.


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